- Joe McDonald, ESPN Staff Writer
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BOSTON -- Following a day-long manhunt and apprehension of a suspect in the marathon bombings, life takes a step toward normalcy in the region with all three active pro teams in action Saturday. The action kicks off at 12:30 p.m. with a Bruins-Penguins tilt at the Garden that was originally slated for Friday night.
Like most people in and around the city, Bruins players spent Friday watching at home as authorities were in the midst of a massive manhunt to apprehend the remaining suspect in Monday’s bombings. The Bruins were scheduled to play Friday night, but the game was postponed and rescheduled for Saturday afternoon.
“Probably like everybody else I was glued to the TV and staying inside,” defenseman Andrew Ference said. “Obviously I’m pretty proud of what everybody did [Friday] night to apprehend that guy. It was pretty tense moments for everybody, but I’m just proud at the end of the day for them to catch him. It’s sad to see how many people were hurt. It was a bad thing for the city but I good ending, I guess.”
Bruins veteran forward Shawn Thornton, who lives here year round, also kept a close eye on Friday’s events.
“It was pretty suspenseful,” Thornton said. “For a bit I watched some golf to get my head away from it, and kept checking in to see if there were any updates. We’re very proud of the people that tracked him down and the chapter is closed for now.”
It was an emotional scene Wednesday as the Bruins played their first game following the marathon bombings. Players expect more of the same Saturday.
“It’s like the other night [Wednesday] where you get back to some normalcy, but today everybody’s still remembering the people that were hurt but it’ll be a little less heavy feeling with the fact that so many people got to witness live heroism last night,” Ference said. "I think everybody was pretty proud of the authorities, so I expect it to not be as heavy but a little more celebratory.”
Both the Bruins and Penguins were wearing “Boston Strong” black and gold t-shirts Saturday morning, which fans can purchase with 100 percent of the proceeds going to the OneFund. For pregame warm-ups, the Bruins were wearing hats from the Boston Police Department, the state police and Watertown Police. All three were part of the manhunt that ended with the capture of the suspect in Watertown.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of proud people in the stands again today,” Thornton said. “I don’t expect anything different. I heard the streets were packed last night after this happened and I expect that to carry into today with the crowd.”
After the ordeal concluded Friday night, television broadcasts showed the parade of first responders leaving Watertown, Mass., with citizens standing and cheering. The Bruins have always had a close relationship with the first responders of this city, so it was satisfying to see their friends get that type of reception.
“It’s just not last night. The thing about those guys, they have to do that every night,” Ference said. “Last night there was a lot more attention, with the scrutiny of the media and whatnot, but those guys have a tough job the whole year. You’re so proud they get recognized on terms like that last night when they have a national stage. There are a lot of incredible people.”
After Wednesday’s game, Bruins players hosted first responders in a postgame reception at the Garden.
“We heard some pretty crazy stories of what they went through,” Ference said, “and I know we’re a good outlet for them and they were all pretty happy to watch us, but we’ll try to give them something to cheer about and cheer them on as much as we can as well. It’s pretty impressive with what they do.”
There was a prominent picture working its way around Twitter on Friday night of a S.W.A.T vehicle with a Bruins logo sticker on it. That got the attention of the Bruins and their fans.
“It was the battering ram, right? That’s that the first thing somebody sees coming through, that’s pretty cool. I saw that and I hope I never have to see that up close,” Ference said with a laugh. “That was pretty awesome to see those guys do that, and I’m not surprised because those guys they’ve always been big Bruins guys . . . they’re always pretty eager to share how passionate they are about hockey.”
As one Bruins staffer said, if those people protecting the city are hockey fans, we’ll all be safe.